(originally posted 9/4/03, fixed links on 11/17/03) After reading Partners in Necessity, I said I’d go pick up the rest of the series. Which I did. The day after. And then read most of it over a three-day weekend. And I really enjoyed the rest of it. So I recommend the whole set now. In universe chronological order (as opposed to publishing order), they are:
- Local Custom and Scout’s Progress (these two prequel novels describing the adventures of the parents of the main protagonists in the rest of the series are also available in the omnibus edition Pilot’s Choice)
- Conflict of Honors (also kind of a prequel, describing events that took place seven years before the events of the rest of the series)
- Agent of Change, and Carpe Diem (this is where the main action starts – these two novels are packaged with Conflict of Honors in the omnibus edition Partners in Necessity)
- Plan B, and I Dare (these two novels pick up where Carpe Diem left off, despite a ten-year gap between publishing Carpe Diem and Plan B, finishing up the main Liaden universe story line)
So basically, three prequels, and four arc novels.
I was intrigued by one of the forewords calling these romance novels set in space. I suppose they might be considered such – four of them (the three prequels, and Agent of Change) have as their main plot arc the meeting and “lifemating” of two prominent characters. I didn’t feel that the romance dominated the novels, though, as I expect them to in “romance” novels. I’m not even sure what I mean by that, but I’m sure it’s some sort of rationalization to avoid me having to consider the possibility that I would enjoy romance novels as I enjoyed these.
One of the other things I really liked about this series was the concept of melant’i, describing the confusing mix of roles that characters play in their lives. One of the main characters, Val Con, is a younger cousin, a clan head, a Scout, and a husband. As a younger cousin, he properly shows deference to his elder relatives. However, as clan head, he deserves their deference. Lee and Miller disentangle these roles by postulating the Liaden language to contain different modes that are appropriate for each role. By a combination of non-verbal actions such as bows and hand gestures, and verbal hints (addressing Val Con as Delm indicates he should be in his role as clan head, as opposed to the younger cousin), the different roles that compose each character’s melant’i are kept distinct. This concept is particularly interesting to me since I’ve been reading a lot about semantics recently, and the power of language to shape our thoughts and attitudes. So the idea of a language that differentiates the many roles that we play in our daily lives sounds like a good one to me. It would lead to much less confusion, I suspect.
But anyway. I digress. Great story. Interesting characters. Interesting culture and world. Neat aliens. All good. I highly recommend. Or just borrow them from me sometime.